Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Eurovision 2016 as political commentary

Eurovision song contest has always been deeply political, and not just by the way old allies and neighbours vote for each other every year. 
The program started just ten years after Europeans had been industriously mass-murdering each other. The song contest was a part of a general project of integration and mutual understanding, aimed at preventing those periodic bouts of genocide, and the simultaneous broadcasting in all over Europe was an unheard of innovation. It can be said to pre-date EU, as the Treaty of Rome was only signed a year later than the first official Eurovision song contest was broadcast. It has endured through fall of the last fascist regimes, cold war, and the fall of the Iron Curtain, enfolding the new members to its ample, oily, glitter-splattered bosom. It is only fitting to see it as a mirror of the concerns and political climate of Europe as a whole, in and outside the EU. 

Finland: Sing it away  

Vaguely ethnic-y looking woman tries to sing away the rise of xenophobia and the extreme right. 

Greece: Utopian land 

(Why not just Utopia? Isn’t that what it means?) Now the greek male has lost even his shirt and is desperately running in a bleak, barren landscape looking possibly for Grexit. Occasional flashes of a man dressing in traditional Greek garb, possibly in reference to Golden Dawn? Rising sun is after all mentioned in the lyrics. 

Moldova: Falling Stars 

OK so the name says it all. Otherwise the song seems to refer to an apocalypse by meteorite strike: sky falls, wildfires rage - Moldovans are aiming larger than just EU and its little golden stars. 

Hungary: Pioneer

It starts with a line about running away - refugees again? But looking at the pioneer boys on the stage it does seem clear that the million hearts and love seeking approval refers to gay rights - go marriage equality! 

Russia: You Are The Only One

In the beginning of the video we see a man lying in bed, signifying Russia as ‘the sick man of Europe’ - or should it be Eurasia, or the World? Whichever, we presume the rest is a love song for Putin. 

Cyprus: Alter Ego 

With Finland having dropped the ball on what comes to hard rock, Cyprus has sent a bunch of guys who look like it but, well - they are fine actually if a bit blunt (as opposed to edgy). This is not meant to be a music review.
Economy is again the theme of this performance: The guys have been left homeless, they are on a field with their furniture and their pet husky. ‘Waking up alone like a man that failed’ and ‘you know you know you know I’m still inside’ - no, you eejit, you are outside in a field! But Cyprus is sticking with EU, even if it feels like jail-time. They also sing ‘being trapped in a fairy tale,' a metaphor on how the high ideals of EU of the past seem now rather unrealistic, even childish. 

Austria: Loin d'ici 

Not much to say. A hippie girl searches for a paradise in a psychedelic landscape of Amanita mushrooms. Escape to a drug-fueled fantasy world is an understandable, but hardly a politically aware move. 

Estonia: Play 

Estonia feels alone at first but realises he is stronger together - with his allies from NATO. 

Azerbaijan: Miracle

Singer is begging for a miracle while draped in thick, yellowish fog. Maybe just cut down on coal power instead?  

Montenegro: The Real Thing

The Montenegroans (shut up spell check, what do you call them then?) are either singing about sex, or EU integration, or both. Anyway being inside feels good, as many men can attest. 

Malta: Walk on Water

Slightly defensively, the singer claims to be ‘not perfect but A-OK,' proudly referring to the tiny nations still-high credit rating, and trying to excuse recent scandals about the Panama papers, spring bird hunting etc. The tragedy of the migrant crisis is briefly referenced by showing a drowning man. 

Poland: Color Of Your Life

What colour is your life? Who you really are? - The colour is of course white, or at least sort of pinkish light beige. The song stops short of answering the question it poses, but the white Poles prefer lurking in a forest alone, or on top of a tower like Saruman, or hanging together playing violins. Certain picture of isolationism is inevitable, yet they sound a bit sad and apprehensive - but that is possibly just the general Slavic melancholy. 

Ukraine: 1944

This really does not need explaining. The soldiers came and killed everyone. Here subtext is text. 

Czech Republic: I Stand

It is hard to pull any meaning from this, but I wanted to point out that the video for ‘I Stand’  is mostly shot with the singer lying down. Perhaps a humorous reference to the state of the economy in general, or a comment on self-delusion? Then again, most countries live on debt, so perhaps it is a satirical view on the whole concept of a sovereign nation state. 
In fact it was quite easy to find a metaphor in the end. 

Serbia: Goodbye (Shelter) 

This is quite simple: Serbia is feeling betrayed, living in the on-off relationship with EU. Serbia was hoping to join in the blessed union by 2014, but it was delayed, and while the process is moving on, the final happy day is still years away. 

Belarus: Help You Fly

Jesus? You have shaved?

Israel: We are made of stars

Now it is would be easy to just presume everything coming from Israel has something to do with the Palestine conflict. There are however people on both sides who would rather have peace - and the singer here could be either seen to lament the cultural homogenisation, global Coca-Cola-ism overwriting local cultures, by writing Tel Aviv on the wall using Latin alphabet rather than either Hebrew or Arabic - or is he celebrating it? All of us are made of stardust, the Morrissey-lookalike concludes, taking a larger view. 

Belgium: What’s the Pressure

A group of multicultural youth dances in a grim concrete set, asking What is the Pressure?
Sorry. It is just seems too soon. 

Australia: Sound of Silence

The Australians have sent an Asian-Australian to show they are not completely Fortress Australia. I find there is way too many references of drowning in this whole competition series of songs (many of the ones not analysed did also contain imagery of the stormy sea). Also, if her heart beats to the sound of silence, does it mean it does not beat? Quite grim. 

France: J'ai cherché cherché

Another repeating theme this year is songs about singing. This is split in two parts: French (obviously first) end English (secondary). The singer looks a tiny bit like younger, less slimy Sarkozy. The video suggests that disaffected youth of the banlieues should pursue physical hobbies, such as dance and martial arts: not a bad idea as such, but what about employment? The two young people find a profession through their hobbies, but surely it not possible for all? Especially people who age at normal rate.

Germany: Ghost

Frankly I only include Germany here as it SHOULD have been interesting, but it seems she is still just haunted by ghosts, with the toys and Christmas decorations of the past stuck on her head as so much gaudy debris from the boom years.

Italy: No Degree of Separation

A woman is stuck in a cage of neon tubes, that symbolises being under constant scrutiny and separated, imprisoned even: a clear metaphor of the condition of the many refugees stuck in camps and holding centres. Ironically she asserts there is no degree of real separation - we are all one humanity. The large fake gem being passed from hand to hand is a blood diamond, symbolic of the systematic stripping of natural resources from Africa by foreign powers. Powerful stuff! 

Spain: Say Yay!

Spain takes a more optimistic view than most: there is only one way, and that is forwards. Say yay, sing lalala - it may seem trite, but is probably a better approach than wallowing in all that has gone wrong. 

Sweden: If I Were Sorry

Sweden is bloody well not sorry. 

United Kingdom You're Not Alone

Again with the heart beating. Also Australia and Latvia make this organ’s normal function a focal point of the song, and it appears also on the Italian video. Obviously the theme of the song is the looming Brexit - Joe and Jake try to convince us we are in this together. Either we and UK are in this together, or UK with its three not always united kingdoms is together outside EU - dragging Scotland kicking and screaming with it. 

Thank you for attending. 

So that was it for this year's competition, hopefully you enjoyed this brief but incomplete and totally subjective analysis. You may have noticed all countries were not included - some songs were excluded because they had little to add to political discourse*, and also their countries were not perhaps central in the recent events. I can only wish that this helps you fully appreciate the nuance of shirtless men waving their arms, women in skimpy bespangled outfits and of course all that hair flapping in the draft from the wind machines. Winds of change? What is next for Europe?

*or were really boring

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